Enterprise iPhone Adoption Still Slow, Says Analyst

Enterprise acceptance of iPhones is likely to come with the development of good business applications, according to analyst Jack Gold. Those who open their doors to the iPhone, he says, should also figure out how to support Android and subsequent mobile operating systems.

Though BlackBerry smartphones are the de facto mobile devices in most enterprises, many iPhone owners are still pushing for IT to support their handsets. Unfortunately for them, analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates wrote in a Jan. 13 research note, iPhone adoption in the enterprise is more likely to be a "long, slow burn rather than a tsunami."

According to Gold, the majority of IT departments are reactive, rather than proactive, and in order for them to support a new device, a "critical mass" must be reached and intense pressure must be felt from the user community.

Given this, "One of the key issues for broader iPhone adoption is: Will the end users find a way to circumvent the IT infrastructure and use the device anyway?" Gold wrote, pointing to issues that make circumvention difficult, such as the need for iTunes on a PC, which many enterprises prevent from being installed.

For iPhones to be welcomed into enterprises, Gold wrote, the likely key will be enterprise applications.

"I expect that the lead for iPhone adoption in big companies will be through business apps, and not through e-mail. BlackBerry is more than adequate for most companies, where e-mail [is] concerned, and the lack of a hard keyboard on the iPhone is actually an inhibitor for many users," Gold wrote in the note. "But [access to] apps, with iPhone's user-friendly navigation and interactivity, is a highly desirable capability that users could quickly adopt."

But if today it's the iPhone they want, tomorrow will it be the Droid?

In making way for the iPhone, Gold said, enterprises should plan on making it easier to support subsequent mobile operating systems as well.

"That likely means less of a constituency forced to stay on one device due to the investment, and more of an open policy of supporting many device types," Gold wrote.

Still, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion shouldn't worry just yet about losing market share to the iPhone, given how slow enterprises are to make changes. And, as long as the iPhone is still exclusive to AT&T, few enterprises are "currently AT&T-focused," Gold wrote, which doesn't help with iPhone uptake.

"I know some people who are major fans of the iPhone want to see a more short-term upside for enterprise deployments, but I just don't see a rapid change in the enterprise market," Gold concluded.

With the June 2009 release of Version 3.0 of the iPhone software, many believe that Apple made the iPhone more appropriate for enterprise use.

A June report from research company Forrester found that iPhone users are more "mobile-inclined" than other device owners, meaning for example that they e-mail and go online more frequently.

Forrester also revealed in a report issued Jan. 6, 2010, that enterprise workers who use iPhones for business purposes are more likely to pay part or all of their monthly service bills themselves, while enterprises are more likely to pay for BlackBerry bills.